By Cat Wurdack
In 1983, when Peter de Garmo’s appreciation of a good bottle of wine inspired him to help start a euro-style market on Hawthorne Blvd., commercial rents were $8 per square foot.
“The street was not heavily trafficked,” de Garmo remembers. “There were lots of boarded-up storefronts and at least one porno shop.”
In the eighties, the popularity of frozen meals, fast food, and microwaves made heating up a kitchen stove practically unnecessary and many people were unconcerned with organics, farm animal rights and sustainable agriculture.
It would be a couple of decades before the Pacific Northwest farm-to-table fever caught on and people took to their kitchens with a passion for locally-produced food and more than a passing concern for how it was raised or slaughtered, how far it had to travel to market, and whether the workers and growers were fairly compensated for their labors.
de Garmo was among the first wave of Portlanders to adopt those concerns and create a small business plan based on what would eventually become known as “slow food”.
Slow Food International, a non-profit, member-supported association founded in Italy in 1989, celebrated local culinary traditions while drawing attention to the global impact of personal food choices and the downside of commercial agribusiness and factory farms.
The Portland Slow Food chapter was founded in 1991 with de Garmo’s help and in 2003, he began serving on the Board of Directors of Slow Food USA.
For 30 years, de Garmo – and more recently, his son and Pastaworks general manager, Kevin de Garmo – has worked with small scale producers of wine, meat, cheese and other quality foodstuffs in the Pacific Northwest and Europe to showcase some of the best products available at their Hawthorne Street shop.
Pastaworks is a foodie’s dream of well-curated wine, meat, and cheese – and its house pasta is one of its most popular items.
The Artigianale pasta, in particular, is made from the most highly refined “00” flour and egg yolks and has a toothsome bite and deep, rich color and flavor. Current flavors include locally-raised spinach and piquillo pepper.
In addition to fresh rotini, spaghetti, and tagliatelle, you can buy fresh sheet pasta to make lasagne or ravioli at home.
Especially this time of year which is, after all, so much about the food – it’s great to have people in the know to steer you toward the good stuff, and Pastaworks has you covered.
Buffy manages the produce and creates visually-inspiring food displays that tempt you to fill your bag with cooking projects. If you’re not sure what to do with those burly matsutake mushrooms, she’ll tell you.
At the meat counter, Hank the butcher will walk you through the variety of house sausages, cut your rib steak just the way you want, and counsel you on how to cook your turkey (butterflying does have its advantages).
Robert, the perennially good-natured Brit who frequently runs the register, is startlingly good at remembering your name and checking to see that you have what you came for and that you don’t leave your bag behind.
Nat and Teressa in Evoe, the highly regarded open kitchen and wine bar inside Hawthorne Pastaworks, serve up Basque-inspired salads, charcuterie, and small plates and, if you sit at the chef’s counter, you can watch it unfold on – what is that, a two-burner stovetop? Amazing.
When you’re hurrying around Hawthorne this season, you might hit the pause button at Pastaworks lunch counter, order an Illy Caffe espresso and maybe a slice of Miss Zumstein’s cassata siciliana from the bakery case.
Just relax – and you know, take it slow.
3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd.